It’s not too late to catch San Diego Musical Theatre’s fine, likable production of the beloved Annie Get Your Gun. The show runs through Sunday in North Park. As this effort directed by John Todd, with music direction by SDMT’s Don Le Master, reiterates, Annie … is beloved for a reason. Yes, it’s fluff, but it’s also pure Irving Berlin, who wrote some of his most enduring tunes for Annie Get Your Gun. Roll call, please: “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “They Say It’s Wonderful,” “Anything You Can Do,” “The Girl That I Marry,” “I Got the Sun in the Morning.” Even Annie Oakley’s cornpone “You Can’t Get a Man With a Gun” is hard to resist.
Of course, it takes more than Berlin’s songs, memorable as they are, to propel a show from start to finish, especially one that’s been done a jillion times and is familiar to just about anybody who ever set foot in a theater. You’ve got to have the right Annie for starters. This production does. Beth Malone is a natural comedian, animated of expression and athletic of movement. She’s paired with Steve Blanchard, whom you may have seen doing stellar work as the Grinch at the Old Globe the last couple of holiday seasons. Compared to that cartoonish duty, he’s practically playing straight man to Malone in this show. But he gets to flaunt his comic chops well enough, notably in the “Anything You Can Do” duet near the end of the evening. A character actor’s dream, Annie Get Your Gun also lets John Polhamus have a ball as impresario Buffalo Bill, and Debbie David cracks wise as the pretty but petty Dolly Tate. The less said about the un-P.C. character of Sitting Bull (and that’s no reflection on actor Sean Tamburrino), the better.
The story, by the way, of Annie Oakley becoming the star of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show is predictable but entertaining. Naturally, Annie and the previously unchallenged “champeen” shooter on Earth, Frank Butler (Blanchard), fall in love, part on account of a misunderstanding and reunite. Whoops, gave it away.
But is there anyone out there who’s never seen Annie Get Your Gun? Well, if you are one of them, you’ve got a few more days to join the Wild West Show. Get a move-on.
David L. Coddon is theater critic for San Diego CityBeat